Hollywood is getting there!
I mean this is more or less the 80s tentpole sf movies, like Back to the Future, Ghostbusters, Batteries Not Included, Innerspace, Short Circuit, what have you
i remember this movie purely because it happened in a time whe nthe gen x slacker coolness was finally starting to get recieved apathetically by movie audiences and the rest of the world but every movie featuring one would always attempt to turn it on its head by revealing like they’re a famous comic artist or rockstar or equally slacker-ish fantasy job instead of just being a lazy piece of shit and actually a human being at the same time
Bong Joon-ho’s The Host is kind of like this.
Speaking of Korean movies, let me add I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK to the list. I haven’t seen it in years, and it’s extremely problematic about mental illness, but it’d make sense in this thread.
its more complicated re: mental illness than just straightforward problematic (so I suppose its more like the earlier definition of problematic rather than just straightforward terrible on the subject) but yes it is a very odd romcom
My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997) - Another Julia Roberts joint! Over the course of watching these movies I have developed increasing respect for her enjoyably rubbery comedy performances and casually alien appearance. I’ll be honest and say I watched this one instead of picking at random from my list because sometimes you just want a movie where the main character looks like she’s always considering just eating the male love lead’s head and laying eggs inside his carcass.
This movie in particular sort of felt like the end of an era because IIRC it’s also the first time on this list one of these movies didn’t end with the main characters hooking up - instead, it’s a sort of anti-romantic comedy about how the protagonists of this genre feel entitled to rain casual devastation upon everyone around them in hopes of reaching their goal. So it’s sort of the indie game version of the format and I look forward to the sequel where Julia Roberts has to solve puzzles on an island for 30 hours, perhaps in penace. It was a nice surprise to have this stuff switched up for once.
Of the various types of romantic comedy sidekicks, JR’s character apparently bought the Deluxe option (gay, british, willing to drop everything and fly to where she is to help solve her problems at any notice, also pretend to be her straight fiancee), here played by Rupert Everett. I was surprised that the movie stuck their guns on not pairing JR up with someone else at the ending - it turns out they actually did, it just tested really poorly! So they shot another version where she just ends up dancing with her friend as he consoles her that there may not be marriage or even sex but there will always be dancing - almost as if she, too, was now also the solitary gay best friend character in a 90s romcom. I guess it’s better than dying!
Well, it’s maybe not so bad in any case because the heterosexual love options in this film are pretty gruesome. The titular best friend is played by Dermot Mulroney, sort of looking like a cross between Matthew Broderick and a Tennessee Williams character who strangles his wife, and is sort of a leering dullard with severe anger management issues who loves to suddenly scream at his creepily submissive 20yo child bride played by Cameron Diaz. He’s a sports writer, which I feel is a strangely common job in movies of this period. (maybe for the implication that it mixes manliness and creative sensitivity? later films tend to go with “architect”, a mix of artsiness with business nous). Anyway in the course of the film Julia Roberts invents many ways to torment the bride (forcing her to sing karaoke, etc) but slowly learns to admire her capacity for punishment, which is depicted as the ultimate X Factor that allows her to win the day and ride off into the sunset with this sullen and rageful clod.
it is strangely well shot, and there are many carefully composed crowd scenes at restaurants and parties which may partly be the work of cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs (“Easy Rider”, etc). But I particularly enjoyed this because it seemed like the producers went out of their way to fill the background of the movie with as many weirdly eye-catching faces as possible. I didn’t take many pictures but nearly every scene takes place in a big crowd and nearly every one has someone startling leering in from behind the characters. Which to me, is the purpose of cinematography.
It’s also responsible for my favourite shot of the film - where the wedding party all start spontaneously singing at a crab restaurant, and as the camera pulls back, we see the staff are all standing in the background slowly waving their giant crab claws from side to side in response! Very spiritual and moving.
Also, a surprisingly high ratio of underused character actors in this movie- R Emmet Walsh is in it (as “Papa Joe”!) and has like two lines, Harry Shearer is in here somewhere, Paul Giamatti suddenly appears as a bellhop at a scene where Julia Roberts is smoking in a hotel corridor. He tells her it’s a no smoking floor and she says “why don’t you have me arrested” in the most disgusted voice and he makes a Paul Giamatti face:
Anyway, by the close of the movie Julia Roberts has hijacked a bread truck and there’s been yet another scene where a big climactic confrontation happens in front of a crowd of strangers who sort of preemptively act out the intended audience’s own response. We also see something of a resolution arc for the very Anachonox NPC sunglasses she wears early on in the film:
At the end, you can still she still has them on her, but she’s mysteriously added another pair of sunglasses that she’s wearing at the same time! This happens in multiple shots so I presume that it’s intentional, and possibly reflects how this character is meant to be “two-faced” by this point in the film, or else depicts the slow growth of an all-new form of consciousness from the rubble of her romantic life. Or else she just has four eyes! Who knows.
I swear to christ this is the best thread that has ever existed on any iteration of this website
@thecatamites did you hear the woman in the stadium bathroom echoing the cries of “kimmy!”??? i have wondered if it is scripted or just a naughty extra forever
actually yes!! I think in context it’s meant to be coming from the new york “bag lady” character in the bathroom but it’s such a weirdly underplayed moment that it really feels like the whole movie has just drifted off course
The Wedding Planner (2001) - Jennifer Lopez IS The Wedding Planner, which I think is the romcom equivalent to being a Transporter or a Bodyguard, possibly even Ghost Dog or Leon. She’s a hardened professional brought in to handle big jobs from behind the scenes. She has a utility belt containing Evian spray, breath mints, and some ominously labelled “sedatives”, and is the top wedding planner at her company about to do one last big job before being made partner, which I thought was more of a law firm thing but I guess I don’t really know that much about how wedding planners are organized.
Anyway just as action movie professionals have their own private list of rules that they must reluctantly compromise (“never get involved with a client”) (“never look in the package”), the first rule of wedding planning is stated to be “never fall in love with the groom”. I guess this is considered a big enough risk for it not to be considered just a general rule, like a rule of thumb, but in fact Rule One of her chosen field. But inevitably it will be tested when the groom for the big assignment turns out to be… the mysterious doctor (Matthew McConaughey) who recently saved her life and who, uh, then went out with her on a date?(??) I feel like falling in love with the groom is a fairly natural plot twist for a movie about a wedding planner but does lead to the problem of, how do you make a romantic lead who falls in love with the planner for his own wedding but who doesn’t seem like a huge shady creep as a result? And it turns out it’s tricky.
Just to digress about the life saving part - when out and about in the city JLo gets her shoe caught in a grate just as a dumpster is slowly rolling down the road at her. The thing is she actually takes the shoe off, but then just continues to stand there and try pulling it out by hand anyway until she’s tackled away. I can’t say I probably wouldn’t do something as silly in the circumstance but it’s like one of those plot fixes which solves an obvious question but just raises further ones. Anyway, she’s knocked out and wakes up in a children’s ward being leered at by horrible little gremlins, because it turns out her saviour is a pediatrician. And I guess because he’s a pediatrician he took her to his children’s ward…? That would feel kind of menacing to me but maybe it’s some insurance thing.
This is another one of these movies that has a totally inexplicable minor character who somehow ends up working his way into being central to the plot. In this case it’s “Massimo”, an unshakeable and horny italian played by someone from Ohio who talks like Tommy Wiseau, is obsessed with working out and mac & cheese, and who we know is european because he drives a moped around while accordian music plays. He’s such a dorky and functionless character that it’s genuinely surprising we ever see him a second time, after he’s introduced as a potential date by J Lo’s dad, but in fact as time goes on he ends up having long intense conversations about love and giving toasts and shit and who by the end is somehow just about to get married to J Lo until the wedding is called off at the last second. Also, this happens in tandem to MMcC’s wedding ALSO being called off at the last second, and then he has to run across town to make sure he can appear at J Lo’s cancelled wedding as well. So continuing with the action movie analogy I guess having two different weddings collapse at the same time is the equivalent of like showing a motorcycle crashing into a helicopter, which then also collides with a gas station, or similar.
here’s some scenes from MMcC and JLo’s first date: they dance and she invites him to watch her next scrabble match, as it turns out she’s enrolled in a scrabble league. “OK, but don’t step on my foot”. “Sorry”. “Just don’t let it happen again.” “Don’t tell me what to do.” I feel like this is the film romance version of the horrible couple conversations you hear behind you while waiting for a movie to start.
the scrabble thing doesn’t come up again until Massimo proposes. her response is to suddenly turn to a nearby scrabble set, write “OK” with the tiles, and then turn it to face him.
Judy Greer from Arrested Development plays an assistant, who I thought was familiar but didn’t recognise until my gf suddenly pointed to her chest mid scene and said “this is the last time you’ll ever see THESE”.
JLo gets drunk after running into her old fiancée who dumped her at the last minute (character equivalent to “special forces mission that went bad” i guess), and then she sits down outside her locked apartment door and says “i’m just a baby… auuuhhhhh” in a pained voice.
Alex Rocco (Moe Greene in the Godfather) plays the dad and is easily the most watchable person in the movie and delighted me with a variety of strange but believable dad faces.
Matthew McConaughey’s original fiancée is presented as such a big deal that she’s made the cover of “Yahoo! Internet Life”, available at all good newstands.
There are a few different celebrity references and they all come across like space aliens are trying to write sassy sitcom jokes without knowing who any of the people being referenced are. At one point she’s feeding someone a speech thru bluetooth, and then turns to people watching and says “what, you think Kissinger wrote his own stuff?” The noted inspirational orator Henry Kissinger!
They look for a statue for his wedding and Matthew McConaughey zooms in on the most muscular one, then accidentally knocks it over, and they snap its dick off trying to hoist it back up and there are multiple shots of the forlorn looking stone dick.
they stole this from Anna Karenina
We have entered peak wine mom territory
I now demand that all romantic comedies be analyzed into action movie tropes, finally I can understand this genre of film
Crossroads (2002) - starring Britney Spears, Zoe Saldana, Dan Ackroyd (as Britney’s dad!), uh the lady from Orange Is The New Black and I guess the captain from that new Star Trek as the love interest… directed by Tamra Davis. I knew I’d seen her name somewhere and it turns out she directed a bunch of 90s Sonic Youth videos and also the one for MMMBop! Also the NWA parody movie “CB4” and some Basquiat docs… also, it turns out she was married to Mike D, of the Beastie Boys. So I was interested in a film which seemed to exist purely to fulfill some kind of bizarre Venn diagram stipulation.
Well be careful to always read the fine print because rather than a romantic comedy this is more of a coming of age drama with mild romance and comedy themes, more about following a bunch of friends as they each deal with Exactly One serious teen problem like parental abandonment or teen pregnancy. But also - it’s functionally a Britney Spears vehicle at the same time, and so there’s a lot more singing than you might expect? And it’s also very weird when it’s mostly a realism-styled movie and her character who is something of a cloistered nerd type starts singing in the car or something, and suddenly changes to Britney Spears’ singing voice in the process. I did enjoy those parts and having the movie suddenly swerve every now and then into “let’s out on a show!” territory did a lot to offset the afterschool special vibe.
[trigger warning for sexual assault unfortunately]
I would say the main dramatic point in the movie is when two of the girls go to check up on one’s long distance BF, and they find a different girl in his room, who is just relaxing on a couch in enormous silver heels to make sure we get the picture, and then the OTHER girl also realises that same BF is, uh, the rapist father of her child, and the first girl realises too because the BF is drinking from a blue beer bottle(?) just like was mentioned in an earlier description of the assault. And then the pregnant girl falls down the stairs and miscarries… I don’t want to make light of these issues but it was extremely disconcerting having these two plot arcs suddenly be combined with no warning. A bit like the Tim Burton Batman movie where the Joker was the one who kills Batman’s parents because I guess it’s more parsimonious to only have a single bad guy be responsible for bad things that happen in the movie? Occam’s Razor for genre movies. And then it’s “resolved” within one five minute segment, partly due to a special type of beer bottle that I guess no other person in the world drinks and that he happened to be drinking at that moment… ? Anyway this is why I’m happier sticking to Meg Ryan movies, where there’s no such thing as pregnancy, or possibly sex in general. If only!
OH YEAH and Britney’s character meets up with her estranged mom who, she tells us after the scene has cut away,said that that she was a mistake she never wanted nor had any interest in reconnecting to. I was disappointed because if the synopsis was that explicit I really wanted to hear the actual conversation.
Given the director’s previous work I was expecting more weird music cameos and was disappointed that the one band they had was Bowling For Soup playing the prom night or whatever. Could at least have gotten Shellac.
Favourite background guy: this polo shirt freak in the club!!!
Favourite background item: fish lamp
Favourite shot: this hellish greenscreened driving image.
In conclusion at times it had a depressive teen hangout vibe that I enjoyed but this was otherwise a reminder to be cautious of any movie called like Crossroads or Footprints or Echoes or anything else that sounds like part of the subtitle to a GBA castlevania game.
Forces Of Nature (1999) - absolutely did not expect a movie where Ben Affleck has to travel cross-country to his wedding with wacky but life affirming accidental companion Sandra Bullock to be one of the most aesthetically disorienting films in this series but here we are.
Like, the closest I can get to describing the feeling of this is by saying imagine somebody’s entire approach to cinematography came about by repeatedly watching showy MTV-styled 90s cult movies like Natural Born Killers and Tank Girl or something and nothing else, and that this person was then given a completely straight studio romantic comedy to direct. Nearly every single shot has some combination of disorientingly angled shifting camera, weird colour overlays, vivid expressionist lighting, distracting primary-colour backgrounds… sudden shifts to handheld camera, slow motion cgi hailstones (while Modern Donkey Kong Game music plays), hyperreal greenscreen skies, things and faces suddenly being thrust into the camera like that 3D Friday The 13th film…
And for the most part it’s completely disconnected to anything happening in the script! There’s a scene which is meant to be a cosy home conversation between an engaged couple and the camera is swinging around and looming closer at odd angles like something from the first Silent Hill game. There’s an early scene where Sandra Bullock kissing Ben Affleck is effectively shot like a jumpscare as she suddenly stalks directly into a fisheye lens and bangs her head on a plastic phonebooth door. There’s another time they kiss where the camera goes back and forth between the kiss and a flaming Cash N Carry sign falling to the ground and exploding. I don’t know if the manic editing would be as noticeable in any other context but dropped into this genre it is definitely very engaging and disorienting.
I looked up director Bronwen Hughes and the most notable things she did before this were the Harriet The Spy movie and some episodes of Kids In The Hall so sincere props for going as all out as she did
Unfortunately the plot part of the movie kind of drags although I did enjoy the way BA & SB being so consistently overshadowed by the world around them made them seem like endearingly adrift and confused. I never really got the sense that they were even able to pay attention to each other with all this stuff happening, it’d be like holding a conversation in a wind tunnel or something. There’s a good background cast incl Steve Zahn, John Doe of X(!) as a scumbag husband, Richard Schiff… There is an extremely 1999 soundtrack with Swervedriver, Gomez, some trip hop, “Pigeonhed” and “Propellorheads” both of which basically sound like you’d expect bands from that era with those names to sound. It features possibly the worst and most mesmerizing Georgia accents I’ve ever heard in a film. They sound like White Russian aristocrats trying to infiltrate a school production of Gone With The Wind.
In terms of the actual plot it does have some startlingly outre, for the genre, moments thrown in. At one point they smoke weed! (sudden zoom into Sandra Bullock’s lips erotically blowing weed smoke into camera). She’s a single mom who abandoned her child! Actually it turns out not to be all that progressive as she turns out to exist to give Ben Affleck a lil taste of the wild and crazy life before he returns a more mature man to the matrimonial bosom, fading away with a sad smile just after she’s reunited him with his bride etc. I do like that the bride sleeps with somebody else in the two days he’s away but the film doesn’t make a big deal about it and it’s basically let slide.
The other weirdest thing about the setting is that it sort of takes place within the Kirk Van Houten expanded universe, nearly every other minor character suddenly does some kind of spiel about how marriage / monogamy is an unhealthy mistake and how they only started enjoying life once they gave up on it. I guess the movie ends up going in the other direction, but in order for it to read as a twist they have to spend most of the running time building up a Bitter Divorced Uncle Hegemony to go against.
At one point he’s hiding from his friends so he just lies motionless at the bottom of a swimming pool like a turtle. Also, at one point he gets money by stripping at a gay bar, but they refer to it multiple times as “stripdancing”. The bar crowd react like a depressed hetrosexual slowly pulling off his polo shirt while Sandra Bullock grinds against his leg is the craziest and most erotic thing they’ve ever seen.
They both bond at one point over the admittedly good blurb he wrote for a bestselling archeaology thriller, “a scintillating tale of erotic mummification”. Sandra Bullock tells us she used to make a living filming people’s weddings, but got fired because “nobody wanted a smash-cut to the priest”. I feel like that is something like a statement of intent for the entire film and so consequently I have no choice but to respect it.
Pictures don’t really capture the mobile camera effect but here are some images
I love you
These guys did The Matrix Song. You know, that one
and made one of the biggest electronic music programs that exists!